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Parents ask school board to reverse school mask mandate

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

An amendment to the Alachua County School Board’s policy on Protective Facial Coverings During Pandemic/Epidemic Events was on the agenda of the March 16 meeting, and parents showed up to ask for changes to the policy, which has existed in some form since July 15, 2020, and in its current form since October 20, 2020.

The advertised changes included eliminating neck gaiters and bandanas, but a staff attorney announced at the beginning of the discussion that they would not be making that change: “That is no longer a recommendation of the COVID Response Team.” The staff attorney said the remaining changes were just to clean up the language and clarify policies that were already implemented by the school board. The attorney also pointed out that the meeting’s vote was just to approve advertising a hearing for the first reading of the changes to the policy on April 6. The second reading would be on April 20 if the changes are approved on April 6.

“Some of the concerns I am seeing are face fungal infections, an increase in acne, and, most recently, an increase in bacterial eye infections, which are caused from the breath coming out above the mask and into the eyes”

During public comment, Nichole Carlisle said her 9-year-old son has been unable to wear his glasses all year “due to the fogging that the masks create.” She said local parents have sent her messages about their concerns: “Some of the concerns I am seeing are face fungal infections, an increase in acne, and, most recently, an increase in bacterial eye infections, which are caused from the breath coming out above the mask and into the eyes. Teachers are concerned of the psychological damages masks are creating; children are unable to read facial expressions, which could impact cognitive development in young children… To even think of instituting a policy that gives the superintendent sole authority to require masks in the future, even for the flu, without even needing a state of emergency declared, is something that is completely unacceptable.”

Angela Hyatt said her children have often complained of headaches, discomfort, and feeling constricted by face masks while trying to learn and focus. She asked the school board to address the risks and benefits of masks, and regarding the policy under discussion, she said, “I think we need to know what metric is being used to determine the masking during times of ‘elevated communicable disease and community spread.’ Would this allow masking during regular flu season?” She proposed a “well-constructed survey” of teachers and parents on the removal of masks in schools, once all the teachers who want to be vaccinated have done so. She also pointed out that there are no efficacy standards for child-size masks: “All are untested and unregulated. When looking at the studies provided, there is reasonable doubt as to the benefit of masking children.”

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She held up a chart that showed the CDC’s metric for schools (7-day cumulative cases divided by 100k population, as of March 15) for all counties in Florida, color-coded by whether they require masks.

Gina Dortch brought a collage of photos of local children who have skin problems from wearing masks.

Dortch said she opposed giving the Superintendent the sole authority for deciding when children need to wear masks; she also said the decision to use masks should be left up to individual parents. She said that with no definition of “elevated spread,” it could apply to a few kids getting the flu in a class, “which happens every year.” She went on: “Teachers are reporting that the masks are causing young children to treat one another more cruelly; they’ve noticed a big difference in overall behavior in children, from last year to this year. Children that are normally nice to one another are being really mean. They feel like the kids are dehumanizing one another because they can’t see expressions, or sadness and happiness… You don’t have to see the other person as a human if you can’t see their face, so it’s much easier to be cruel.”

At that point, the staff attorney pointed out that the policy is already in existence, with only two minor modifications proposed. She also said that “although the policy does not define in itself ‘pandemic’ or ‘epidemic,’ the school board actually has a separate policy just for pandemic and epidemics, which does provide a definition and which is related to spreading high levels of communicable disease… this wouldn’t be instances that are related to the common cold. Another clarification… is that the first part of the existing policy… doesn’t provide instruction for the Superintendent to do anything, really; it just says that she issues some periodic guidance. This policy is the board’s policy, and the board’s policy to enforce, and it doesn’t direct the Superintendent.”

Nikki Wagner said the policy was “vague, and it seems – no matter what the attorney just said – to give the Superintendent, who is not a health expert, power in these events… It does not give any metrics… Theoretically, as written, it could be imposed on a whim. It has no metric or criteria, most importantly, for expiring. What is elevated risk? Yesterday in Alachua County, we had 11 positive cases, out of 260,000 people. 70% of the county’s population of 65 and older have already been vaccinated… When does it end?… The only conclusion is that these changes are being made now in order to keep masks in the fall, which is the concern that we have here.”

“I just want to point out that masks are definitely an impact on our kids’ mental health, the dehumanizing effect of them.”

Brad Gonzalez said he has 3 adopted kids, and he has mental health concerns with the mask policy. “Mental health is a major concern of mine. It’s something I have to monitor. I have gone through an emotional crisis with my oldest teenager, who is no longer in school… I have seen declining mental health in my other kids… I just want to point out that masks are definitely an impact on our kids’ mental health, the dehumanizing effect of them.” 

Earlier, two speakers during general public comment had talked about a bullying issue at Ft. Clarke Middle School that they said was not being addressed by the school’s administration. Gonzalez said, “That will only increase without the ability to really connect with people… without having those facial expressions.”

The meeting then went to recess, as a woman who had signed up to speak was escorted out by Sheriffs’ deputies for not wearing a mask. She said she had a medical exemption, but they took her by the arm and walked her out. 

When the meeting resumed, Chair Leanetta McNealy said, “We are required, on this property, to wear our masks, that is one of our policies, but we have provided Zoom opportunities. You can always call in, and you do not have to come in this building if you choose not to wear a mask.”

“You talk about mental health? I got mental health – I don’t feel safe sending my girls to school with a optional mask policy”

Tina Days said, “I am so upset, what we just saw with this anti-mask. Can you believe what would happen if y’all make it parental choice about anti-masking? Nobody would come to school with a mask! You talk about mental health? I got mental health – I don’t feel safe sending my girls to school with a optional mask policy… We need masks on! Until everybody or most everybody gets this vaccine, we need the masks!” She said her daughter was quarantined as a contact for a positive COVID case at her school. “If she didn’t have her mask on, she could became positive. And I don’t care about where they say kids don’t die – it might be a chance that my kids die!… So what about what the scientists say?… Please keep the mask policy.”

The meeting then moved to accepting comments over the phone. The first was Tiffany Burdette, who said masks “are extremely detrimental to our children and their mental, physical, and emotional health. As someone who struggles every day with PTSD, I can only imagine the long-lasting ramifications that our children and their teachers will have to deal with after living this last year with a mask covering their faces… My children are forced to wear this mask from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., from drop-off to pickup at Extended Day… My son is a first-grader, and he has been told on more than one occasion, by personnel at the school, that he must wear a mask while he is running outside in P.E. This is dangerous and wrong… My daughter… refuses to wear her glasses at school. What kind of permanent damage are you causing to her eyes?… Every surrounding county has removed their mask mandate, and it’s time for Alachua County to do the same.”

“Because of the accumulation of carbon dioxide, the brain is feeling a lot of stress. You can only imagine what’s gonna happen long-term to the kids”

Dr. Ross Hauser, a medical doctor from Ft. Myers, FL, said he does transcranial Doppler examination of people’s brains: “I’ve tested children from the age of 6 and up, with and without masks. When a child puts a mask on, immediately… within the first few minutes, they get vast-dilation of their blood vessels in the brain that you can see and measure, so that means that within a few minutes, the child’s brain is feeling stress. When you have hyperemia – that’s what this condition’s called – of the blood vessels, the circulation of the brain can go from, let’s say, 50 cm/s to over 100. So imagine a child’s brain for 10 hours a day, that the blood’s rushing through their head at twice the normal speed because the brain is feeling stress… because it’s blocking the body’s ability to get rid of a waste product called carbon dioxide.

“When I tested the children, when they exercised… it’s actually worse – way, way, worse. When I had the children do squats or jumping jacks… the hyperemia, or the stress that the brain is feeling, that you can see on transcranial Doppler, got much worse… Because of the accumulation of carbon dioxide, the brain is feeling a lot of stress. You can only imagine what’s gonna happen long-term to the kids. Now, hyperemia normally causes, in human beings, it causes anxiety… Then we also did autonomic nervous system testing, specifically it’s called heart rate variability… When kids were masked, their heart rate variability went way down, meaning that the body was feeling stress. Their vagus nerve, which is the most important nerve in the body, was feeling stress, and wasn’t as active. So I can tell you… that children who wear masks, it’s gonna cause their body to feel stress…” He ran out of time at that point.

“So while I do understand that there are many families who do not like masks, and there are children who legitimately struggle with them, I would then suggest that perhaps the Digital Academy is the better choice for them.”

Tracy [inaudible] said she was calling in support of the mask policy: “With the exception of Dr. Hauser, almost everything I’ve heard has been full of political rhetoric.” She said she wears a mask all day long and has been vaccinated, and her daughter “wears a mask all day long, including at P.E., because she feels uncomfortable taking her mask off… I know there are very real challenges our students are facing, and absolutely, trauma from this pandemic is one of them, but the mask, in my experience, is not the thing which induces the trauma. It’s the loss of homes, it’s the loss of food, it’s the loss of jobs, it’s the uncertainty of education, it’s the inequity in education… So while I do understand that there are many families who do not like masks, and there are children who legitimately struggle with them, I would then suggest that perhaps the Digital Academy is the better choice for them.”

Peggy Vermont said she was a psychologist who works in Union County, where there is no mask policy. She gave some anecdotes about teachers and a student who were hospitalized from conditions related to COVID, “so I am in complete support of keeping the mask mandate – it is saving lives. I don’t know how people can pick and choose who they think should die, should be hospitalized.”

Tracy Marinello said she doesn’t support a mask mandate for children: “We need to lift the mask mandates for everyone, and especially starting with our children. I’m afraid that we are raising a generation of germaphobes; I’m afraid of what is happening to their lungs and their brain development. Science does not support wearing masks… The new CDC report… only showed that masks prevented 1.9% of spread.”

A woman with an inaudible name called in support of the mask mandate: “I recently sent my son back to school only because there is a mask mandate… Nothing is 100%, but I’d rather my child wear a mask and his classmates also wear a mask, that way it reduces the spread.”

“I respect people that research and don’t just come in here and talk willy-nilly.”

School board member Gunnar Paulson said he had received “excellent” emails and that he’s a “believer in the mask,” but he heard “some excellent presentations… tonight,” and he said he couldn’t ignore that. He said that asking when the masks will end is a legitimate question. He said he “didn’t hear a lot of political rhetoric – I think that was a very poor choice of words,” and he said he wasn’t ready to vote because he wanted to make his mind up later. 

The staff attorney said that the vote at that meeting was just to instruct staff to move forward with setting a public hearing for April 6 and then a second reading on April 20. “A yes vote tonight is not a yes vote for the policy; it is just direction to staff.”

Paulson said, “The people who presented – the vast majority – should be complimented… I respect people that research and don’t just come in here and talk willy-nilly.”

School board member Rob Hyatt said he’s not a health expert. “That’s why I have to depend on our medical professional advisors for me to have the context… sort of the go-to people here would be the Alachua Health Department, UF Health, and we have a group that advises us… I’m gonna have to lean on that information.”

School board member Diyonne McGraw also said they’re not medical experts, “so as we move forward, we have to look at the overall picture of every single child that we serve in Alachua County… I’m not making a comment either way tonight.”

School board member Tina Certain pointed out that this is an existing policy and that nothing they would do that night would change it immediately.

“We have no expertise about what should happen except from our advisors, and those are the people that we listen to”

McNealy also thanked citizens for their input, both by email and during the meeting, “and everyone’s opinion is valued… I read every email… I understand about the fogging… maybe the children aren’t having enough breaks at school, but please note, in the cafeteria, they certainly are eating their breakfast and lunch without masks… We have no expertise about what should happen except from our advisors, and those are the people that we listen to, and we have to make our decisions based on what they are sharing with us.”

The board voted unanimously to direct staff to set the public hearing for April 6. 

  • Isn’t Tina Day a democrat? Aren’t the democrats the party of science?

    • Great photo.
      Thank you for your excellent reporting on this meeting.

  • I found this article heartbreaking but honest. Masks simply do not save lives. Masks are to sneeze and cough into and most kids will pull down to do this anyways. And, if someone is sneezing/coughing they are sick and should be home. These masks will spread more disease after contamination. You have been sold a lie by the CDC and media. SImply teach kids to sneeze/cough into tissue, wash hands/sanitize and that will do as much as any mask. Seriously crimes against children.

  • Masks need to come off now. The verdict is in. Masks and lockdowns have no scientific basis. The perpetrators of this political virus and their complicit media fear-mongers have been gas lighting the public for too long.
    .
    The WHO recently confirmed that the Covid-19 PCR “test” is so flawed that determination of so-called “cases” is meaningless. No positive test without physician evaluation of a patient can be regarded as a true medical “case”, yet the rules were changed to accommodate Big Pharma’s need for profit through public panic. – https://tinyurl.com/5ctmh48d
    .
    Selfish party politics is killing our kids. Statistics confirm that collateral damage and suicides from Covid-19 enforcement by officials with no license to practice medicine is the real global pandemic.
    .
    The false option of a “digital academy” to solve the mask hazard is a racist dog-whistle where economically deprived families can least afford the “opportunity” – especially when both parents are otherwise working or looking for employment after being declared “non-essential” a year ago. Unhealthy learning through a computer screen is no substitute when it starves creativity, competiveness and socialization of young minds and increases reports of child abuse, depression and suicide.
    .
    Former CDC director, Robert Redfield confessed. “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from Covid”
    .
    Using the CDC’s own data, the survival rate from flu-like Covid-19 symptoms exceeds 99.98% for people under 60 yo and 99.997% for 19 yo and younger of school age – So, stop it with the masks! – https://tinyurl.com/6svc753y
    .
    No PCR test is needed to know that physician diagnosed cases of mask-mouth and mask-related illnesses are real. Re-breathing bacteria and viruses from the mask is a documented health hazard including viruses that can cross the blood-brain barrier through the olfactory nerve system located up the nose where the PCR swab is thrust. (warning)
    .
    POLLUTION of the oceans and environment have elevated masks to the disreputable equivalent of THE NEW PLASTIC STRAW and NEW PLASTIC BAG.
    .
    The ear-loop and equivalent masks used in OR settings were never intended or licensed by FDA or OSHA to control viruses. In my 25 years working in an operating room setting, masks and caps only reduced the frequency of facial hair, dandruff and defoliating skin from falling into the surgical field. More often, the mask protected the surgeon when an arterial bleeder squirted blood onto the face. Masks were always changed between cases – a period of usually less than 2 hours. Even then, headaches and fatigue were the primary complaint often leading to sick-day absenteeism. Pregnant nurses were rotated out of the OR to perform tasks where masks and exposure to radiation and hazardous blood products were not required.
    .
    Stop falling for the scare tactics and open-up the schools. The science says so.
    ____________________

    LOCKDOWNS KILLING MORE ADULTS AND CHILDREN THAN COVID-19 – https://bit.ly/39SgrIm
    Compendium of Reports Find Masks Useless or Hazardous – https://tinyurl.com/2xp3fvp2
    ____________________

    The WHO Confirms that the Covid-19 PCR Test is Flawed: Estimates of “Positive Cases” are Meaningless. The Lockdown Has No Scientific Basis – https://tinyurl.com/5ctmh48d
    ____________________

    CDC data – Covid-19 Survival Rates: https://tinyurl.com/6svc753y
    ____________________

    The Coronavirus Will Be a Catastrophe for the Poor – https://tinyurl.com/v7w7v7zc

  • Thank God for my kids private Christian school where they don’t have to wear masks all day long!!

  • Thanks for the great story of the “Third” Reich of Alachua county.

    The majority of these board members probably skipped science class therefore have no knowledge of the science. The superintendent wants supreme rule for implementing her puppeteer’s rules. They are wanting to implement the changes in wording based on their Covid Response Team’s recommendation? A couple of teachers who themselves don’t have medical experience and can no more claim to be “experts” than the board members who claimed as much for themselves. Chances are the Covid Response Team are teachers who were “found” a position simply because of their social media presence or needed something to do because the brainwashed didn’t want their kids attending brick and mortar schools. According to the real experts we’re on the downside of this.

    If there isn’t any “real” change in the structure why does it need to be changed? I would wager the parents who support masks in school are the ones who want to continue with the distance learning for their children…WHO ARE NOT AFFECTED by the policy. Ms Days just reenforces the point of the lefts’ disregard for science. There is a greater chance of her child dying from a vehicle accident than dying from Covid. Tracy has been vaccinated and still chooses to wear a mask. That’s her prerogative. She continues with brainwashing her child and taking away the things related to childhood that are supposed to make being a kid enjoyable. Ms Vermont stated she is a psychologist who works in Union county. So why the hell is she attempting to influence this county’s policy? Illegal immigration and/or voting comes to mind.

    The bottom line is that the far left has up until recently been in support of “the science” as long as it fit into their political agendas. Now that they have their president and their congressional leadership they still seek to maintain control over our lives.

  • I can’t wear a mask, period…i can’t breathe with one on…Air is too hot & I get claustrophobic… Trachers should get
    vaccinated if they are crazy paranoid afraid and those parents who are crazy paranoid afraid should vaccinate their kids too…leave those of us who
    who don’t like masks or shots alone… some people are control freaks!!!!!!

  • the parents with the kids who are afraid should do the
    on-line thing and wear masks, and those people who
    are healthy and don’t like masks go to brick & mortar…

  • People need to stop asking and start demanding or pull your children from the school! B Protect your children from this medical tyranny that violates the Nuremberg code. They are making your children sick. Wake up!

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